The Imperial Palace has previously been known as the Royal Palace of Rio de Janeiro and the Palace of the Viceroys and stands in the city center next to Praca XV, a square which is known nowadays for being a host on the weekends for live music and street parties. However, in the 18th century, it was a part of the larger residence for the governors of colonial Brazil.
It was the military engineer Jose Fernandes Pinto Alpoim who was the architect for this impressive building. If he were alive now he could point to several significant structures in Rio and proclaim accountability for them; he was the architect for the Carioca Aqueduct, Convent in Santa Teresa, Arco de Teles, and the church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, among others.
The Imperial Palace was designed and built in a simple Baroque style, rather similar to the contemporary Portuguese manor houses of today. The palace has a Baroque portal that’s made from Portuguese marble, giving a regal look. It also has several inner courtyards and a stairway leading up to reach the upper storeys. The areas besides the palace, praca XV, was remodeled by Pinto Alpoim as well to include a marble fountain that was brought over from Lisbon.
In 1808, it served as the royal residence of King John VI of Portugal. He made this palace his residence when he fled Portugal during the Napoleon invasion. During this time, a throne room was added to the palace on the second floor where the traditional hand-kissing could take place.
In 1822, the palace became the workplace of Emperors Pedro I and Pedro II. It was during a period of about 150 years, between 1743 and 1889, that the Imperial Palace was one of the main political centers in Brazil.
The palace served an important part in some of the most important historical events in the history of Brazil. It was at the Imperial Palace that Pedro I declared that he would refuse Portuguese orders and would continue in an independent Brazil. It was also at the Imperial Palace that Princess Isabel, Pedro II’s daughter, signed an immensely important document, the Lei Aurea, which banned all slavery in Brazil.
Despite all this historical significance, incredibly it lost its importance in 1889 and was turned into a central Mail Office for Rio de Janeiro. All its wonderful interior decorations were stripped down and it served to house the post coming through the city. Luckily, in 1980 it was restored to its former glory with the interior replicated to how it was in the 19th century thanks to a large catalog of pictures and photos of the original decoration. Nowadays, it’s a cultural center in Rio which hosts various temporary art exhibitions of paintings, sculptures, photos, cinema and music. It also houses the Paulo Santos library which specializes in art, architecture and engineering, as well as protecting a collection of valuable books from between the 16th and 18th centuries.
By Sarah Brown